Cheating, a prerogative!

A few

 

Exam

Climbing Walls to help students cheat!

A few days back, I had a written a blog about Atmanirbharata

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2020/06/27/atmanirbharata-self-reliance/

Though the blog referred to Mr Modi’s appeal about self-reliance by our nation, I had said that for a society or a nation to be Atmanirbhar, each individual must try to become Atmanirbhar in his/her own life. The process starts from birth, and it continues throughout our lives. But basic training continues till we continue our formal education. At that stage, we finish our initial training for self-reliance.

I have taken education until my Master’s degree in Engineering. I have appeared for various examinations. But the thought of copying during the exams never even came to my mind. Very rarely, we would see or hear someone copying. It used to be a scandal when we read the news about someone being caught copying during exams. I had the shock of my life, I think, during the third-year engineering exam. I was writing away with full concentration and had completed writing on the main answer book. I was writing on a “supplement” as the additional book was called. The invigilator went out for a few minutes, and my classmate sitting in front of me simply pinched the main answer book. He started copying answers from that. I started sweating. At the same moment, the invigilator came inside. People rarely copied during those days, so she was casually moving around the class.

Ten minutes later, she went out again. I was at my desperate and vicious best. I just caught my friend’s hair and pulled them hard. At the same moment, I bent forward and took my answer book. Phew! That was my only experience with copying during the exams.

Why do we have exams?

Exams help us learn and digest information more easily. Because students are under pressure to get good grades, they strive to do their best. They work hard, making sure that they are well-prepared. Without exams, students would be able to put off their revision and find it hard to keep up in class.

Exams are crucial. Many students are studying because of exams. Through the exams, students can know the level of their knowledge. It evaluates the student’s skills and enables them to overcome their nerves. It is an efficient way to measure knowledge. And also helps to estimate how much they have learned. Actually, it promotes competition among students. It helps in developing one’s personality and confidence. And exams have a significant role in providing necessary qualities in life such as hard work, patience, creativeness and leadership. This makes students able to overcome their weakness and become successful in life. Therefore exams should be compulsory. It judges us about the understanding of the subject and our capabilities to apply the knowledge. It also helps to improve the memory power of a person. It allows the students to explain their understanding of a subject. It not only helps to polish the writing skills but also helps one to improve their analytical skills and expand the outlook they have about the world. Hence an exam should be a tool for enhancing one’s career. It helps us to think for ourselves.

But is it human nature to find a shortcut, always? I do not know. If I make a generalised statement, then I will be saying something unfair to those who study hard and do well in the exams. But then which is the group of people that cheats? What could be the percentage of such people?

All these thoughts came to mind after reading the news given in the link below.

Out of 860 pilots from Pakistan Airline, 262 pilots did not even appear for the examination that leads them to get a license to fly. With ¼ th of pilots coming under doubt, the system needs an overhaul.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1565352/262-pilots-under-investigation-for-dubious-credentials-to-be-grounded-says-aviation-minister

If this could happen in Pakistan, it could happen in Bharat Desh too! After all, we are long lost brothers by birth! Aviation pilot training is a critical training. When Pilots fly passenger flights, the life of many passengers is in their hands. Though air travel is supposed to be the safest travel mode if it gets into the hands of people who cheated in their exams, risk factor increases. The Pakistani minister has said that the person who was supposed to take training did not appear for the exam, but someone else did. I am sure that for these exams, not many appear at a time, and all the centres for the exams would be city-based. How the cheating took place is a mystery. If one or two cases were found, then it could be explained as an aberration. But 262 pilots are involved in this fraud. I am sure that there is a big conspiracy to cheat the system and making money. To hell with passenger safety! Are the aeroplanes built to be so much fraud-proof? Those who have “passed” the exams have been flying these planes. (Today’s news said that  the US has asked Pakistan to stop flying to the US)

That reminds me of a story told by my son. He lives in the USA since the last twenty-five years. They used to hire people from India based on telephonic interviews. Those were the days of no video calls, and the candidates were asked questions on the phone. Candidates were a little slow in understanding and responding in English. The candidates were from Telangana. Most of them were very good technically, and got selected. When the first batch reached the US, they were found to be wanting in knowledge. The mystery was solved when my son pushed one of them for the real story.

Here is how it was done. The candidates would take the call in an institute on speakerphone. The candidates would appear to be slow! The reason was that the candidates were helped by experts with answers displayed on a screen by quick searching. The telephonic interviews were stopped.

Above two examples involved higher stakes. But in India, copying in the exams has reached a different level. It is an art. The proliferation of copying in exams is done nonchalantly. These exams are tenth or twelfth-grade exams. It is very embarrassing to even see the video and photographs. Hundreds of parents and relatives climbed the school walls and the compound walls to help children to copy.

If these children’s foundation was cheating, what else do you expect from them when they grow up. Why the madness? I heard that when they pass these exams, there is a chance of getting a government job as a peon. Does poverty lead to such acts? Is job availability so reduced? What knowledge would these kids have if they get tested and many times pass without acquiring any knowledge? I have gone through the exam papers of some students. In Hindi answer sheet of an 8th grader in Pune, there were 42 spelling mistakes. These were duly marked by the teacher. But the student was given 49 marks out of 50. Why? To encourage? Or the child was from a wealthy family or from a political family? God knows! But what was the point? Amen!

The teacher and The Guru!

A couple of days back, we celebrated Guru Pournima. (Full moon night to revere the Guru) It was celebrated with enthusiasm, the latest version. Every sadness, joy, reverence, fear is displayed by us, these days in the only way we can. Forward a label or a sticker and throw in a couple of emojis. We are not supposed to or are allowed to write anything in our own words. We are afraid that we will be stigmatised if we do not find an appropriate thing to forward or publish. Some poor souls can not find the “original” forward; hence they push a forwarded forward. Come on, Pramod! When I was in school six decades back, my teachers had taught me to push forwards. They had such foresight; they knew that social media would take over the world.

Coming back to the title, a Guru means an influential teacher or a popular expert. A teacher means a person who teaches, especially in a school. On Jaya’s school WhatsApp group, there was a bit of a discussion which was confused about who is a teacher and a guru.


My school was Ram Mohan English School, Girgaum, in Bombay. My education was in Marathi till 11th grade, after which I went to Elphinstone College and then Engineering at COEP, Pune. The photo above was shared by my classmate Ashok, and it made my day. I have seen enough things in the world now, but I can proudly say that these teachers were as good as any. They are from left Joshi sir (Sanskrit), Naik sir (He was the head-teacher and taught us Marathi), Sabnis Teacher (Science- we used to call lady teachers “Teacher”), Kundaikar Sir (Maths), Mayekar Sir (English). They were outstanding by any standard, but importantly they were great human beings too! They would accommodate over-energetic students like me, though I ranked first in punishments.

I could write pages and pages about these dedicated people, but I will write only a couple of incidents. Mayekar sir was a Professor of French at Wilson College, but due to some health reasons, he moved to our school. He was simply terrific in his language, both written and spoken. His handwriting was out of this world. When I was in the 11th grade, he once called me to his home on a Sunday. I went there with apprehension. When I reached there, he said, “Panvalkar, I will guide for a few Sundays because I feel that you are good at English.” He simply wanted to help and guide me. He had foresight about me. I had never dreamt during those times that I would become a blogger writing stuff in English. Whatever hints he gave in those days, I was too busy noticing them, are surely helping me. Though Marathi is my mother tongue, the language in which I communicate normally, I think, and write in English, as if English is my first language.

Other teachers who guided me in life were Wadke teacher- I used to interact with her during extra-curricular activities like sports. Somehow she took a liking for me and was like my mother to me. She was the epitome of softness. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate. Dr Satynarayna, my HOD in the Metallurgy Department at COEP, my guide for M E, taught me how to make decisions fearlessly. He ensured that I completed my M E in two years and joined the industry.

Unfortunately, we remember all these souls only on Guru Pournima day. We also make an error in understanding the difference between a teacher and a Guru. We interact with teachers for a small duration. But Guru is one person who is in your life and is around all the time. The Gurus are of different varieties, the Osho variety of 92 Rolls Royce fame. He was also famous for his commune with a “free” life. You and I may not agree with his thinking, but hundreds of thousands of disciples tell a different story. The Gurus have been controversial, they have lived in five-star hotels during their travels. In my view, nothing is wrong with that. It is how they improved the lives of their followers. Pandurang Shastri Athawale was one such Guru of fishermen living in northern Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat coast. We find that the language used by him in sermons is primary. But it was meant for the fishermen who were having a troubled life as they were caught in binge drinking. Osho used to give a high level of sermons because people involved were from different categories. Many Gurus like Satya Saibaba who have done wonders for the society with the help of his followers. His “Gora” followers from many countries come to stay in his ashram and would offer their expertise free e. g. surgeons would go and perform free operations. There are, of course, frauds who have cheated people of their property, and we hear many cases of sexual exploitation of women. The cross-section of Gurus is very similar to our society. There are greats, some are good, and others are bad to horrible. But one thing is common in them. They are continuously in touch with their disciples.

I was lucky to have one such Guru in my life, Mahesh Kothari. He was CMD of Exedy India Ltd. We met in 1981 and were regularly in touch with each other until his death in January 2017. I was his business associate and advisor. When we became close and family, it is difficult to say. He never told me, what I should do in life.

I have traveled with him from Pune to Aurangabad many times, and he used to love driving. He would always share the driving time with me. We have had many chat sessions with only two of us, at the guest house. He would never tell me to do something in any specific way. He would share his experiences, he would explain many things, and for me, they were more of training sessions of life. He would care a lot about his family, and he was 100%, family man. I would absorb his way of thinking all the time. He loved his drink, but I was an occasional drinker. He taught me how to enjoy a paan at Tara Paan House in Aurangabad.

Aurangabad was his second home. He was so much involved in work that if he needed to visit a vendor quickly, he would hop behind on some one’s bike, if required, and rush to resolve some technical issue. All the people at the Aurangabad plant were his family. When someone from the factory was travelling abroad for the first time for work, he would personally make sure that the person had the clothing, suit, and vegetarian food if required. He wanted to ensure that nobody ran into unnecessary trouble in a foreign country.

He was an epitome of a Guru by guiding me through his deeds. He taught me to manage work-life balance. He taught me how to be reliable but gentle at the same time. He taught me how to keep on working all the time, at the same time, enjoying the fleeting moments in life. He was also very open to asking me for suggestions on work-related matters.

Friends, teachers teach you a subject or a skill. Gurus share their experiences; it is up to the disciple to pick up excellent points. Disciples are associated with the Guru for a long time. They see all traits of human aspects in the Guru; do not forget that gurus are humans. But teachers are associated with only the teaching aspect; in rare cases, one gets an opportunity like that offered by Mayekar sir or Satyanarayan sir! In rare cases, the teacher becomes a Guru like in the case of Acharekar sir and Sachin Tendulkar. But here, the disciple was an exceptional human being and continued to play cricket all through his life!

 

Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


Bucket List!

MarchApril2019-Bucket-List-1140x1475

A bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying. Your first question would be why the hell Pramod is talking about death. But the usage of this term has been quite recent. Hitting the bucket is the colloquial term for dying. It is not about death. But do not forget that bucket list need not be life long. You can make short term bucket lists a few times a year. Items could be “I will buy a pair Rayban goggles this month”, or “I am going to meet my long lost friend Deepak in next two months”. Do not forget that these shortlists are also going to give us great joy! My item was keeping a ponytail. If I had done it otherwise, people would have said, “Pramod has gone senile”! I used Corona situation to fulfil my wish!

WhatsApp Image 2020-06-09 at 08.47.50

Typical lists have different items on each individuals’ list. From visiting the standard places like Tajmahal, Niagara falls, Eiffel towers and so on, the list will be endless. See the Wall of China, Visit Machu Pichhu, Meet Princess Diana or Marilyn Monroe are some other favourite items (Ladies let me know your preferences). Watch a cricket match at MCG in Melbourne with the capacity crowd was on my list- I did it in March 2015.

But the first half of the year 2020 has made a drastic change in the thinking of people. In my case, it is a dramatic change. I feel as if I have achieved Nirvana of sorts! Thanks to Coronavirus. It appears that this situation will continue for three to six months more. Have I been a person who prefers to be home-bound? Marathi term for this is घरकोंबडा! Not really. We always used to go out, meet friends, see movies when possible, travel. Going to restaurants, inviting friends at home was our regular routine. Post 22nd March, everything has stopped.

I live in an eleven-story condo tower and live on the 7th floor. All my windows and the balcony face the west. In summer times, the harsh sun is so bright that we were forced to put sunscreens which blocked the light a hundred per cent. With this change, the weather inside is controlled, we do not need an AC. It is so dark within the room, we need to put on the light if we have to do some chore. But this is only a small irritant. The benefits of west-facing home, on the 7th floor with an unblocked view, for miles together, has its advantages. The lockdown brought out the benefits to the fore. What have I been missing?

Even before this lockdown, we sometimes had our cuppa early morning with a beautiful breeze, fresh directly from the hills. It is invigorating, to say the least! Yes, the fog or smog sometimes made the view hazy. I have been enjoying the misty Pune rains of the monsoon sitting there. But never had I even thought of that I would be looking forward to being in the balcony every day! I am there, every day in the evening for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Watching the movies created by nature. With the monsoon in the air, there are clouds. Clouds, in many shades of grey- from light grey to ominous grey in different formations, are seen every day. Even at this age, the real dark ones bring a tinge of fear in mind! But since Pune does not get high rainfall, these clouds hit the hills in around water bodies around Pune to quell their fury! The fascinating canvas that gets unrolled every day, with the sun playing hide and seek, is to be seen to be believed. The holi of colours is played every day! From bright gold to enchanting red, from dark grey to emerald blue the combinations will beat the colour shades offered by computers, hollow.

                                             (Oneplus 6T cell phone Camera)

A couple of weeks into lockdown, we started hearing chanting and cooing of birds loud and clear! Unfortunately, as I am on the 7th floor, even the tall trees are well below my line of sight. So I am not able to see any of the birds unless they are flying. I do see some parrots and pigeons resting on the terraces of the buildings nearby with a few squirrels thrown in. I am sure they were infrequently seen even before lockdown, but I never made it a point to watch them. Honestly, in my lifestyle before and after lockdown, there is only 10 to 15 per cent change. Post “almost retired” status we went out much less compared to working days. But it is the mindset change that has made the difference.

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                                                     Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

I take advantage of my being at the vantage point to see nature regularly. I cursorily looked at Sinhgad, a Shivaji time fort, about twenty km from home. The pollution, the smog was simply missing, and I could clearly see the fort. I started taking photographs of Sinhgad as many times as possible. The clarity is stunning! On one day Sinhgad was looking hazy, and the lockdown was just easing out. I got worried and shared with Jaya that the beautiful site will now be eaten up by the pollution. But the next day, things were “normal”! I could take photographs of Sinhgad. I had forgotten that fog is a normal phenomenon of nature; I had simply concluded that it was lost to pollution!

My favourite example of such adversities is based on how to take advantage of the difficulty. Sachin Tendulkar in a match versus Pakistan in South Africa was facing Shoib Akhtar at his best. He was fast and furious on that day and bowled a nasty bouncer to Sachin. He simply raised his bat at the last moment and slashed hard as the ball was moving at high speed and an awkward bounce. Next moment the ball was in the stands travelling ten rows over the spectators.

The lockdown has been thrown at us by the destiny, hit it for a six. Do not get into “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!” You have not suddenly become older by ten years. Our generation has been lucky that many diversions onscreen in different formats are available to us at our fingertips. The important thing is there is no one to limit our screen time. In fact, our family and friends are worried if you are not able to use technology to your benefit! Play that computer game, see the old Hitchcock movie Psycho! See the brand new Swara Bhasker serial Rasbhari! You will be able to watch free webinars ad nauseam. See those old dramas or one-act plays which you missed in your busy schedule and chat with friends. Look for your seventy-year-old ex-flame and see what she is up to. In fact, you will not get time to say “I am bored”, “I do not know what to do mode!”

 

                                                     Entrance Beach, Australia

                                                Cannon 1100 D Camera 70X300

With reset of mind due to lockdown, my thinking about bucket list has changed. I would rather be with nature. Trees, clouds, mountains, birds and the beasts would enchant me more, and I would rather be with rivers and ocean! The idea has been in mind since I visited the Entrance beach in Australia. It was a majestic, serene and enchanting beach on the Pacific ocean. Over a period, many of our travels included nature rather than large cities. Lockdown has converted me. I am getting to tick mark some portions of the bucket list sitting at home!

Do not worry about me! I am not balcony bound. I am also into video calling and doing different things. With my engineering college groups, I have started to interview friends who have achieved many things in life. These interviews keep me busy in logistics, coordination and other stuff. Plus of course, family video calls are there. Life is home-bound but busy! It is about resetting your mindset as per the situation. One of the significant change could be to modify your bucket list! Taking photographs regularly was one of them!

Live and Let Live- Cry of the MSME!

I had read my first James Bond novel when I was in the eighth grade (circa 1962) while I was educated in a Marathi school in Mumbai till eleventh grade! I became an instant fan of Bond. I am Bond, James Bond- accompanied by the famous Bond tune! The dialogue with the bartender was “Shaken, not stirred!” could be said only by Sean Connery! My only regret is that I never got to see the movie “From Russia with Love” at the Regal cinema in those times!

But I never knew that there would be so many followers of James Bond in the real world! I am talking about the highly competitive business world and the Movie “Live and Let Die!” I completed my Master’s degree in engineering and joined the industry in 1973. Being in Pune, I landed up in the automobile industry, on the components side. I have worked on shop floors, done some manufacturing myself. Later I meandered towards software and consulting businesses, all in the automotive domain.

When I started my career, the buyers from Vehicle Manufacturers (VM) would visit the vendors. Many of them were in Bhosari, Pimpri-Chinchwad area. Vendors were putting their baby steps in the industry, and the VM’s gave a lot of support during those times. The relationship was like the parent and child. The baby steps became the steps of an adolescent and then that of a young adult. But as usually happens, the parents missed out that the child has grown up and become an adult.

With these changes, the tier 2 and tier 3 vendors started becoming bigger and bigger. With many new entrants in India for vehicles, the vendor’s scope went up. Nomenclatures also started changing, and the smaller companies became MSME. Others grew massive, expanded, acquired technologies, started producing world-class products, components and services. Since this was being done locally, there was a cost-benefit. VM’s started getting benefits because of these changes. The main driving force behind such companies was entrepreneurship!

But we will discuss the MSME sector and not the more significant vendors.

All large companies need to have an established cluster of companies both upstream and downstream. It is of no use if the MSME (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises) companies keep struggling all the time. These companies are registered under various departments and come under the ambit of the taxes. COVID is a significant shock to all the economy, but before that, there was GST and demonetisation. These are visible problems that are known to all. One invisible problem that has been hitting MSME is their relationship with the VM’s; the COVID issue has prompted the government to come with some formal support for MSME. During the other two problems, they had to fend for themselves.

The hidden issue from the public eye is the pressure from VM’s on the finances of the MSME. When global competition started in India amongst VM’s, the need for cost-cutting started. MSME organisations are tiny and have no money to take pressure on costs. There are ways and means of achieving the cost-cutting targets. One is an investment in modern equipment. Second is to seek the advice of experts and so on. Both these actions add to cost rather than cost-saving for MSME; for VM’s it is cost-cutting.

By the time the results of productivity improvement are seen, something new comes, and the endless cycle of price negotiation, investments, cost-cutting continues. Some try their best which most of the times it is not good enough to achieve the targets. This type of continuous pressure from VM’s lead to shortcuts and sometimes cheating too! If steel sheets are being used for stamping, discrete changes in specifications done by MSME during buying, help them remain afloat. But it is cheating, though not justified. It is the compulsion to survive.

I was an advisor to medium size companies and some huge companies. They could withstand such pressures and simply do not accept the demand for cost-cutting at least for some time. These huge companies have the same cost structure as that of VM’s. So negotiations keep going on for a long time. But in case of MSME, many times the discussion ends with a terse “take it or leave it” approach. I know about a product which is imported from Japan. For five years, the Japanese did not ask for the price increase, nor did they offer any price reduction. It is because the large companies budget for five years of projected variations. The MSME, many times, are not even equipped to visualise things like after five years; you will be surprised to know that they are also not organised to think of issues five months from today.

Despite such issues, it is a fact of life that VM’s and MSME are joined in business. It becomes a responsibility of VM’s ensure that MSME survives in the ecosystem. An attitude of we will get someone else, throws water on lifetimes hard work put in by some people. They will strongly resist only when their backs are to the wall.

I have heard of many horror stories. Someone started manufacturing a piece of equipment which could be used by many for a particular process. When they went for discussion, the buyer said, “Forget, everything else. All this is sheet metal fabrication. Tell me the total weight of the equipment. We will apply a multiplying factor and give you that price.” What happens to design cost? What happens to the development cost, testing costs?

I am in this field for a reasonable period, and maybe I know a few things. I know all the theories of survival of the fittest. There is a glorified theory of giving price reduction every year; offering price reduction when the volume goes up! But what happens when production volumes go down drastically? Do the MSME get price increase at such times? Sometimes there are modifications in the components. MSME is pushed to absorb the development or modification cost. Why should that be? Do they really have the capacity to absorb such costs? I have already explained above why that particular the Japanese company did not ask for the price increase for five years? They had already budgeted this factor in the quote given for the first time.

What is the solution for this? Coming back to James Bond- first Roger Moore Bond movie was Live and Let Die! It was a 1973 movie. It seems that VM buyers swear by this movie- Live and let die! But is it the right thing to do? To me, it should be Live and Let Live! A dying breed of MSME is not right for any nation. They provide products and services at very competitive rates and are flexible and dynamic because of their size. The MSME ecosystem employs a large number of people. It keeps the enterprise thriving. Their requirements are always reasonable, and they do not have the wherewithal to fight back. The metaphor I used above about parent and child should be extended to at least let them survive with dignity. We should not forget that out of these small, tiny MSME a few giant companies mushroom. Some of these, though they are small, have an international presence. Given the right environment, some can become very good.

I will end with an event which took place years back. One of the towns in Maharashtra had many organisations in a specific sector of the industry. They together supplied a substantial percentage of components to a VM. They were under so much pressure on pricing, they feared that the sector will simply collapse. A few of them went to VM and asked for a meeting with the topmost boss. He was busy. They waited for a few hours. Then they told the buyers, “We have been continuously in touch with everybody. If you have no time to discuss our woes, we will go away. But within two weeks we all will stop our supplies.” The top boss came out of the meeting in fifteen minutes. Rest as they say is history.

I will not recommend such drastic steps because these can be taken only once in a lifetime, that too if you are a group of many companies making similar products. But the MSME friends need to find out their own method to do well, with dignity! Both sides should remember that it is a partnership. But this word should not be used for namesake. But desperate situations will lead to extreme actions from both sides; after all, it is business! MSME folks think, plan, grow, (do not remain too small). Continuously evolve your methods, become efficient. Do not forget that you have reached this stage because you are sharp and smart! But also do not forget that it is a war zone, all the time. Try to stay a couple steps ahead of VM’s! Last but not least, do not put all your eggs in one basket!

    

The Real China Story!


Disclaimer: I have written this blog based on Mr Bambawale’s zoom meeting with Indian Express that I attended. If there is some incorrect explanation, it is because of my misunderstanding. It has nothing to do with Mr Bambawale’s views. His views were crystal clear!

Yesterday I heard Gautam Bambawale’s interview on the China situation. The Zoom meeting was arranged by the Indian Express; the interviewer was Shubhajit Roy. For records purposes, Gautam was India’s ambassador to China. Incidentally, another Indian Ambassador to China, Nalin Suri was my hostel mate, in Elphinstone, in the year 1967- he was in the arts stream!

Years back, Andy Grove used to teach at Stanford. Some students were asked how they felt when “THE” Andy Grove taught them. Their answer was simple. They said, ” We felt as if God was teaching us!” I will not take Gautam to that level about his knowledge of China, but he was almost there. He was soft-spoken, knowledgeable, and humble. He had the clarity that he had retired and politely replied to a question that it was not for him to comment on a specific tricky question about future policies. He also refrained from talking about political issues.

dragon

In the beginning, he explained beautifully, the difference in the Chinese philosophy of life and our philosophy—the meaning of word China means Zhong Guo (Middle Country). It means that they are at the centre of the Universe. The 21st century is not going to be the century of Asia, as per the Chinese. As per them, it is going to be the Century of China! Indian thinking is वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्, the world is one family! Gautam explained that because of the difference in basic thinking, Chinese are of expansionist mentality, and Indians want to get along smoothly with all others.

About the Galwan crisis, he said that it is the game-changer in the India/China relationship. Last so many years, both sides have shown restraint. There is an agreement that during any clash, bullets will not be fired. The practice was followed by both the parties during Galwan skirmish too. As a democracy, our government has shared the details of our casualties with all. The Chinese shared the details of losses on their side in the 1962 war in the year 1994. So we may never know the Chinese details about casualty anytime soon.

By game-changer, he meant that China now probably feels that India can be pushovers. Chinese GDP is almost 4 ½ times that of India, which could have given false notions to them about India’s weakness. According to Bambawale, the Indian army has given a fitting reply to the Chinese in Galwan, and we should be proud to have such strong armed forces. He also said that India had matched the Chinese buildup in Ladakh. All the previous events involved not more than 100 to 150 men, but this time buildup is enormous on both sides. Deaths have occurred in such events after more than forty years.

One of the reasons for disputes is that there is no clear cut border demarcation. During the last few decades, border disputes and trade disputes have been handled independently of each other. The border disputes were sorted out over a period, but that did not put brakes to the trade activity. Now the trade between the two countries has reached a level of 100 billion US dollars. According to Gautam, the time has come to delink border disputes and the business. China sent a message to India in no uncertain terms about their intentions. Probably they misjudged the bravery and courage of our troops. They may try to push us again anywhere on the 3400 km border.

But India is also in the preparation mode to give it back to Chinese all along the border. India should reset all the previous ways and give a fresh thought about handling the situation. India’s sharp reply to a brutal Chinese attack is a message sent to China in no uncertain terms. Just after I exited the Zoom meeting, I saw the news on TV that the Indian government has banned 59 Chinese apps from India. It has given instructions to service providers and Google/Apple not to allow users to use or download the apps- they are given 48 hours to do it.

The naysayers will, of course, ask how India will be benefitted from this action. There may not be severe damage financially, but it is the first clear message to China to behave. Commercially there are many things that government can do. But the society in general and the business houses also have this responsibility. He gave a couple of examples. In India, Chinese cell phones have a 60 to 70 % market share. For our next phone, all of us can switch to Samsung- he jokingly said that he is not the agent for Samsung. He also further noted that individual components, products may become expensive for the initial period. It is the cost we as a nation may have to bear to reset our equations vis a vis China.

He was asked why China has started the border dispute? Firstly, he felt that China wants to bring all the Asian countries under their hegemony. This thinking has probably started because there is a global pressure from the world regarding Corona Wuhan’s episode. On the side, the US and China trade war has been going on for a couple of years. China is also in conflict with Japan. But China also gets into fights with the outside world when it has internal or party clashes going on within China. These are their standard diversionary tactics. Overall it seems that China is driven by their wish to show that they are going to be number one in the world over a period.

From here onwards, I will write my two cents on the subject. Why do political parties not come together even in an event when there is a threat to national security? Is tweeter a medium to air one’s views on security matters? Do opposition political parties expect the government to share information about Galwan in the public domain? The government needs to think, discuss, plan execute plans ruthlessly if required. We should not make any decisions emotionally, but we should not forget that the effect of this reset is going to be long term. Colossal money will have to be budgeted for the expenses on the armed forces.

Even if there is a four-day war, we cannot afford it because the economy is already fully stretched due to the pandemic. But if the need arises, we may be forced to make the ultimate decision. If we hesitate, China will try to go for a kill which we can ill afford!


Get Well Soon, Ramdev Baba!


You have jaundice, your eyes look yellow! You go to your allopathic doctor. Your bilirubin is checked, and it predictably high. You go to your chemist, he says, “Liv 52! Jaundice!” Period, discussion over. In India, when you have jaundice doctors generally prescribe Liv 52. There is no other medicine. Other drugs would only be supplementary things. There could be some cure in Homeopathy, but Liv 52 specified in Ayurved is THE drug! It cures jaundice. There are no medicines for jaundice in Allopathy!

In the year 2017, Jaya and I had decided to take a holiday in Europe. Ten days before the journey date, Jaya had a pain in the right foot. The orthopaedic doctor advised her to stop using heels and gave her some pain killers. He said that only a long rest could help her. We went to our homoeopathic doctor. He was very confident that he would be able to cure Jaya. The only advice he gave was to take a wheelchair at Frankfurt airport as it is vast and you need to walk a lot. We were to also take a train from Frankfurt to Munich, which added to the distance. But later we could climb up and down the mountains in cold weather. Thanks to our doctor! By the time we were back, Jaya had almost forgotten the problem.

Allopathy cured me of Cancer in the year 2013. Otherwise too, we have taken different allopathic treatments for various ailments. Now the usual disclaimer: I am a firm believer that each pathy has its pluses and minuses. None of them has a cure for each illness. My statements are based on my personal experience and experiences of near and dear ones. I have no prejudice against any pathy.

COVID 19 has brought the whole world, including the researchers, scientists to their knees. They are not able to find the cure, nor are they able to find the vaccine. All the governments, the world over are trying to contain the pandemic and try to minimise the spread. Some have succeeded, and others have failed; the death rates are high as well as the infections. Our country has managed to delay the spread and control the death rate reasonably well.

Recently, our yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his company Patanjali declared that they had found the cure for COVID 19! A big show and drama were made during the announcement. Obviously, the rumour mill started running at high speed on social media. Expert social media writers went into a frenzy. When I read last, Ramdev was about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his excellent work in the field of Medicine.

Let us see the whole sequence of events. Patanjali’s manufacturing unit had asked the Uttara Khand government for a license to produce a drug for immunity booster.

The Uttarakhand government has claimed on Wednesday, that the license issued to the Ayurveda products manufacturing company on June 12, pertained to the development of immunity boosters and not a medicinal cure for coronavirus.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Rajasthan government against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, his aide and chief executive officer of Patanjali Ayurved Limited, Acharya Balkrishna. Three others made misleading claims that the company has found a cure for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) called Coronil.

Ramdev said the medicines were developed by Patanjali Research Center, Haridwar in association with privately-owned National Institute of Medical Science (NIMS), Jaipur.

The AYUSH Ministry is yet to examine the claims made by Patanjali. The ministry has asked the company to provide details of the Medicine, such as name and composition, research study details, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and result data. The government has asked Patanjali to refrain from advertising the medicine kit until the claims are duly examined.

There is a ban on advertising of this Medicine, to be sold as Corona cure, till everything is checked by different authorities and formal clearance is given.

What has Patanjali attempted? They have tried to jump the bandwagon to offer a cure to humanity, nothing wrong in that. But the fact is that the whole world, including renowned research institutes, pharma companies are struggling to find the elusive golden wand. These organisations have a backing of millions of dollars the world over, and they are still struggling. It is a fact of life that research done in non-allopathic sciences is negligible, if at all!

On social media, the usual gang of “India is the greatest” has become active. They give various references from Vedic times to prove that we had nuclear weapons, aeroplanes and so on during those times. Great story reading for those times, but that is about it. The cures offered by Indian medicines have been around for thousands of years, but unfortunately, most remained in families and in the private domain. Sometimes remedies were passed on, and at other times they were lost to time with the demise of the expert. Till twenty to thirty years, few new cures in Ayurved or Homeopathy, have been attempted by Corporates in the public domain which had funds. So there is a chance that non-allopathic drugs may come up with some great results over a period, but not yet.

But our Bharat gang is churning out stories. There is a purported theory going around. Patanjali has not followed the guidelines to get the clearance for a drug for the supposed use, in its official statement. So those saying anything against Patanjali are enemies and are being paid by other pharma companies to act against Patanjali! How can ayurvedic research be wrong? But friends, on probing, even Patanjali is saying that it is an anti immunity drug and not the cure for COVID! If Patanjali has really discovered the treatment, then they should not have trouble in defending the probe. But we should not raise the bogey of the greatest civilisation on the earth…

It is plain and simple. Patanjali is five thousand crores plus business. As a business entity, it must ensure that the company makes good profits. Their strategy went wrong, and they were quickly caught on the wrong foot! No harm! If they have come with a right immunity booster drug, it will sell. It will be even better if the results are provable. You take Medicine for fifteen days, and your immunity is up because we say so. Such statements will not boost the immunity though it might enhance their sales. But because of timely action by authorities, at least people’s hopes will not go up, wrongly, about Corona cure.

Will “India is the most celebrated civilisation” brigade accept that this is a million-dollar question! Should the companies not follow the guidelines specified and submit documentary proof? Is curing 280 patients a breakthrough? I do not think so.

Firstly, such a trial should be started after following guidelines. The whole process must be documented. Patients should be of different severity, age, sex, comorbidity and other such variables. Once the systematic trials are done, results shared with authorities, then mass production of the drug would make sense. Let the horses not run faster than the chariot!

 


Atmanirbharata-Self Reliance!


Tejas Fighter

Atmanirbharata is a word that came into circulation, recently. The term means Self-reliance! When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, all the “experts” and the political opponents decided that India was being taken back to the stone age. They declared that India is going back to the permit Raj. On the other side, China baiters started screaming “Ban the Chinese products” and some such slogans. Self-reliance means the reliance on one’s own powers and resources instead of those of others.

How can a society, state or a nation become Atmanirbhar? For any change to happen in humanity, it is the smallest part of the vast populace must become Atmanirbhar first.

Self-Reliance” is an 1841 essay written by American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow his own instincts and ideas. Emerson emphasises the importance of individualism and its effect on an individual’s satisfaction in life. He stresses that anyone can achieve happiness and become Atmanirbhar, simply if they change their mindset.

The philosophical thinking about Atmanirbharata has been prevalent in the world for a long time. Since most have not analysed the term, the usual expert comments are thrown using strong expressions against the thought process. Atmanirbharata has to start from childhood. We teach our kids to crawl, walk, run and ride a cycle. How do we do it? We do it by encouraging them. We explain to them that we can fall, and get hurt, but unless these things happen, children do not become independent. These actions are the fundamental actions that we need to know about life’s journey. We all know that kids love them, they want to be Atmanirbhar in their life. I am talking about physical acts. So, what should we do about our mental facilities? Should we not become Atmanirbhar in our thinking too? Do we like to be pushed by someone- do it this way, do it that way! Do not use your brain, do as I tell you!

The physical part is eating, drinking, toilet training and so on! As children grow, formal education begins. All these are things designed by and for life’s university. If done well, the child grows up into a self-reliant human. The family, school, the society, the town, and the nation become self-reliant if everyone becomes self-sufficient.

When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, what did he mean? He did not say bring draconian rules of license raj. Do not stop imports of things that make the nation dependent on the other countries even for basic things. No nation in the world can become 100% self-reliant because of various reasons. There are hundreds of reasons for this, but that is not what we are discussing.

Assuming that we are a nation of self-reliant people. They take up jobs, they become businesspeople. They become officers and pilots. Within their sphere, they have to act to get the things to the best of their ability. I will share an example of an individual who is a buyer for an organisation. The management decides to cut expenses to improve profitability. The buyer’s job is to find the correct supplier of quality goods at the right price. The buyer looks around, locates the supplier in China, and starts buying from him everything. That my friend is not Atmanirbharata. He should have checked why the cost is so low. Is it sustainable over a period? What happens in situations, like COVID? The buyer did not spread his risks- then he failed in making his company self-reliant! Deciding your policy in such a way that in all situation his organisation should remain self-reliant. Atmanirbhar anyone?

I had shared an example of the Indian Motorcycle industry, becoming world-class in a short period. The sector still buys components from China, but the Chinese companies are more dependent on our Motorcycle companies. That is Atmanirbharata.

During the spread of COVID, in India, there was a shortage of everything needed by health professionals like doctors, nurses, ward boys and ambulance drivers. Within three months, we started making a massive number of PPE’s, Masks and what have you. Now we can probably export these items. We ramped up our facilities and capacities to make ventilators in large numbers, so we do not need to depend on other countries. Mind you, not every component required for ventilators may be available in India. But by importing these components, we are well on the way to become in the manufacture of ventilators. We did the same thing in COVID test kits- this was achieved by a small company in Pune.

The first big Atmanirbharata decision taken by the government is opening up the Coal sector to the private sector. In future, India can export a lot of coal!

Let us now consider the year to year problems faced by our farmer brethren. Though we have made significant progress in irrigation, our topography, and financial constraints (and not to forget corruption!) make farmers dependent on rains for water. Regularly, the rainfall is short or too much. Many times, we do not get rains when most needed. So what is the solution? I had written a blog about Jalyayukt Shivar, a drive, by the Maharashtra government to make farmers self-reliant for their water requirement by digging water reservoirs in every village. The rainwater is stored in these reservoirs and could be used when needed. Friends, it is Atmanirbharata at its best. You do not need Chinese or American components for this project; you need the will-power and smart thinking to make such projects a reality. When I wrote this blog, we did not even know the word COVID 19. There was no China hate in the air!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/jalyukt-shivar-a-new-drive-in-water-management/

My friend Ram sent me an article about Ulhas Paranjpe, Ram’s batchmate in engineering. Ulhas has developed a technology by which villagers can build water tanks by using Ferrocement in construction; this method more than halves the cost of building the tanks.


I have taken the liberty to share his cell phone number here. He is just one phone call away and gives telephonic advice on how to build such tanks: Ulhas’s Cell plus WhatsApp number +91 98207 88061. The web site: http://www.jalvardhini.org/

Are we taking India back to the dark age? Is this going to be the permit Raj again? Many of these experts have probably never seen a village and give expert advice on the TV channels and spread their (lack of) knowledge. Or maybe they have an agenda against the government!

Atmanirbharata does not mean that you do not use products made in other countries. Any product or services where our nation does not have expertise can be brought in, but the locally available products must be procured locally.

What is the point in getting Ganapati Idols, Decorative items, Manja used in kite flying? These items are IndJalvardhiniian, and the traders started importing them from China because they were getting more margins. End-user did not even know that these items were made in China. This is negative Atmanirbharata.

Very few countries in the world make aeroplanes. India had no choice but to import them. But over a period, we have developed a fighter plane, Tejas, for the Indian Air Force. That my friend is Atmanirbharata. Not all parts made are in India for our fighter plane.

Jaya, in her career, had made great strides in Atmanirbharata. She took training in Canada for some systems, in 1981, which cost eight hundred thousand dollars in those days. One system was imported, and Jaya got fourteen such systems made in Pune, at Rs eight hundred thousand each!

Friends, Atmanirbharata is no China-bashing, it is not going back to license Raj. It is being prudent in what we buy and what we produce in our country. Go ahead and import a few things from China or where ever you want. But do not outsource Chole Bhature from Philippines and Rasgulla from Bangla Desh!


National Security and Use of Social Media!

The Chinese army has been behaving in a threatening manner in the Galwan area of Ladakh. There acts of last a few weeks culminated in an incident killing twenty-plus Indian soldiers, including a Colonel. The whole world finds it tricky to find the correct information from the Chinese side. But various accounts indicate that forty-plus Chinese soldiers also lost their lives in the skirmish that took place on the 15th of June.

How does one report in such a critical situation? Whose responsibility is it to give the status report? Which reports should be believed? To me, the answer is quite simple. It is the responsibility of the government, based on the information the government gets from the armed forces who are on the battlefront. In the days of Satellite imagery, it is well nigh impossible to hide any information because the images are commercially available to anybody willing to pay for them. The agencies are around the globe, so the government can not ban the agencies from selling the imagery.

With this limitation, the delay in information could only be because of delay in communication from the battlefront- when soldiers are busy in action or a battle, the flow of information has to wait. All the different news agencies have their “sources” in the government and the armed forces. So information keeps on trickling in. The Galwan incident took place unexpectedly. The armies of both nations were having a standoff for quite a few days. The confrontation became a battle; at the time the action was being fought, there would be a complete break in the information flow from the battlefront. Once the action stops, information flow would begin. Then the “sources” come into play. The information would start flowing in FB, WA, Instagram, and all such channels. The videos of the fight between the Chinese and our soldiers, I feel, are also doctored! My logic is simple. Were the soldiers waiting for someone to take out a Sony camera or start his/her cell phone to take a video of their fight?

It is at this juncture we have challenges. Whose “news” should be believed? It is plain and simple. The official news, the bulletins, the messages released by the government agencies are the ones that should be treated as authentic. These are based on the information from the battlefront, discussions with enemy governments.

Our prime minister held a video meeting inviting leaders of opposition parties and Chief Ministers of various states to give a full status report. The meeting was held after about three days of the incident. Most of the participants gave their full support to the government and the armed forces. But there is a particular party who said they support the armed forces. It means they did not support the government, and that party has continued to behave in the same vein. Their leaders give interviews on TV channels and to newspapers. First thing in the morning, their leaders do is to tweet a set of questions to the government in a coercive manner. They challenge the details based on media reports, which includes information from Chinese social media and what the Chinese government has said.

I understand that for some people, politics is “Dhanda”- business. Sometimes I wonder. How some families have tons of money without having ever “to work” like lesser mortals like you and me. Okay, there was inheritance. But the incomes are earned in terms of the days in which you live. When we were in school/college discussion about Rs one lac or a hundred thousand was very rarely in a discussion. The datum then, in recent times, graduated to One crore or ten million. When there was no income for the last seventy years, how the balances keep on fattening? Who gives them money? I never heard certain people paying income tax. So this shows that the money comes from Dhanda.

It is your livelihood, so keep on doing things that will include commenting on anything against the government every day. I am good with that; if you want to spend every day with confrontation, it is an individual choice. But which matters or subjects should be taboo? To me, the defence of the nation is one subject on which all should agree and work together. When you are a senior politician, you have access to everybody in the nation, including the Prime Minister. If you have some doubts about an action taken, or news available, why not check with the right authorities? Why did the ruling and opposition parties not come together and formed an action group or a committee?

When the so-called national parties continue to confront as if everything is normal, the enemy takes advantage of the situation. It spins the propaganda which suits their line of thinking. It starts spreading doubts in the minds of people in our own nation if the government can handle the situation or not. Yesterday there was news that China and we have agreed in principle to make the verifiable disengagement to reduce the tension on the border. How this is achieved may not be disclosed in detail in the public domain for security reasons. There could be some give or take on the stand we have taken. I am sure the army experts know what is negotiable and what is not. But even on this news, the doubting Thomas-es are saying somethings which are simply not acceptable.

Historically, the Hindus and the Hindu nations have been docile. A friend, Shrirang, expressed his anguish aptly while we were discussing this matter on WhatsApp. I am giving below what he wrote verbatim!

Is it that we remain subservient to the Chinese, or maybe some other country, always?

Do we not have any nationalist pride at all? So first Moghuls, then the British and now Chinese?

The effort will be fierce, citizens will have to accept a higher price, but the battle should not be lost in minds.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” … Sun Tzu, Chinese General

Very well said, Shrirang! I am sure these four lines represent the thought of the nation in today’s times. Our thinking in olden days can be shown in two incidents. The Chinese attacked us in 1962. But we as a nation were complacent. We had ammunition factories, but those were busy manufacturing lanterns and coffee percolators. Krishna Menon, the defence minister at that time, had made a statement that we should not waste our resources on manufacturing ammunition. As if coffee percolators were an essential commodity. In 2013 A K Antony, the then defence minister, had made a statement in Loksabha about Aksai Chin. He said, “Not even a blade of grass grows in this area; hence we should not develop any infrastructure there. The infrastructure would help the enemy for rapid movement.”

China was happy with docile Hindu Rashtra, who would pretend as if nothing is happening. China started having problems with India because we have started building that “not needed” infrastructure. They were used to a docile India. Now the India, that has woken up, is not to their liking hence the fight. Chinese are supported in this fight by a group of opposition parties by trying to divide the nation in these tough times.

Are we still having descendants of Raja Jaichand with us? Friends do not start an argument on how Jaichand did something, which was for the betterment of Hindu Rashtra! It is not the question of nationalism or patriotism but self-esteem and self-respect!

Whose Fault is it, anyway?

Taapsee Pannu

Why am I writing about Taapsee Pannu? I am not writing about her as an actor but as a poet, who has written from her heart!

While thinking about film personalities, terms that we use are handsome, beautiful, sexy and so on? Somehow we never think of them as intellectuals or caring persons, sensitive persons. Why is that so? Probably in the initial phase, people of a different kind joined the industry, but now actors joining are more educated, more sophisticated. They have their feet on the ground and openly express their feelings.

The recent parallel pandemic of human migration was an event which nobody in the country expected. When I say nobody, it means persons like you and me. We are financially settled. If we do not have some income for a particular duration, that is ok. We can manage, we can survive. None of us had ever imagined the plight of migrant workers when the lockdown started.

They were told to hang around where ever they were; we would help you, feed you and give you some money till this “small” problem goes away. But the first lockdown got converted into the second, the third and so on. Besides having no income, all these people went into a psychological problem. The common utterance was, as we do not have money and food we might die. Now if we have to die, at least let us go to our native place to be with family. At least in our last phase, our near and dear ones will be around us. With this thinking, people simply ignored the government directives and started going towards their homes. Some on bikes, some walking, trucks or whatever vehicle they got!

Taapsee Pannu has penned and rendered a poem. It directly touches your heart. Taapsee has not blamed anyone as such but has expressed the feelings of the migrants. She has not used flowery language; she is not trying to be a poet. She has written down whatever came to her mind. The link below gives the video rendering of her poem. It is heartfelt, touching and moistens one’s eyes. Taapsee way to go! I have written down the poem in words so that we can slowly understand the depth of what she has said. The lyrics are plain daily words, but when the meaning starts to seep into our mind, we are woken up with a shudder!Friends see the video before reading poem.

Friends see the video before reading the poem.

The link for the poem!

https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/video/exclusive-taapsee-pannu-migrants-poem-bollywood-covid-crisis-1688753-2020-06-13

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

अगर हम नही है इन्सान तो मौत दो अभी दे दो फ़र्मान ।

खाने को तो कुछ न मिल पाया, भूख लगी तो ड़ंड़ा खाया।

फासले तय किये हजारो मीलके कुछ पैर नंगे ।

मरे क ई भूखसे और क ई धूपसे।

पर हिम्मत ना टूटी बडोके झूठसे।

बससे भेजकर रेलसे भेजकर।

जान ख़ो बैठे रास्ते भूल कर ।

यहाँ प्रतिमाओंकी बडी अस्ती पर जान इन्सानोंकी सस्ती।

बडे सपने अच्छे दिन बतलाये पर भूख किसीकी मिटा ना पाये ।

चाहिये ना भीख़ ना दा पर ना छीनो आत्म सम्मान।

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

I am not going to translate the poem, but it needs to be explained in English for those who are not comfortable with Hindi along with my interpretation.

We are only travellers, but are we the citizens of this nation? If you do not consider us humans then give orders to kill us at least. Look at the frustration; maybe the migrants felt that they do not have the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. While travelling and under lockdown, we did not get anything to eat. But when we were hungry, police hit us with a cane!

We travelled hundreds of miles, and sometimes we walked barefoot! We have seen the pictures of people walking with all their belongings with a couple of children in tow! One simply can not imagine that these people travelled hungry, barefoot with the heavy load. Did they at least get water to drink? Their will to reach home was so strong that despite the problems faced, they never gave up though they were denied their promised rightful things.

Further, the statues of the leaders get a lot of importance, but on the other side, the lives of humans are immaterial for the movers and shakers! Nobody cares about them and their life.

“The powers that be” have shown the migrants many dreams and promised the moon; they were told that their life would improve and there will be happy days for all! Forget all these things, but even their hunger pangs were never reduced.

We were then sent by buses and trains, but we lost our way to get killed during the journey!

The poem ends on a strong note. The migrants say that we do not want alms, but at least others should honour their self-respect.

Taapsee has written the poem with great anguish. She has contained her rage but has been forthright in opening her mind on the subject.

But my question is why such a situation has come up in our nation? All the governments and the authorities have ignored even the basic needs of the city dwellers. The migration to cities has happened because there is work for everybody in large cities. But why nobody has bothered about the squalid conditions in the zopad patties- slums! How has my beloved India reached such a nadir?

Initial days after independence were euphoric. Everybody had high hopes, and we had a charismatic leader in Nehru and his abilities. But it appears that his leadership failed to put on the bright path of recovery of the loot by the British. Instead of concentrating on the nation, he was more interested in having a name for himself internationally. There were some significant initiatives like the building of dams, starting public sector factories and trying to improve the plight of farmers and the downtrodden. But in his time, our national pride took a beating.

Indira Gandhi brought that pride back, but she got embroiled in too much of politics which set us a couple of steps back- e.g. emergency! Rajeev Gandhi brought a notable change in going towards technology like computers. But in all the critical aspect of the common man was forgotten. One more thing happened all through was the population control. For some reason or the other, this vital aspect was totally ignored. Each government would make feel-good statements like “Our population is our strength.” It would be valid only we had the means to support and nurture the talent.

Though we have done reasonably ok, financially in the past couple of decades, we have mentally brushed aside the plight of this large group of people, who are now called “migrants” in our own country. As long as our roads, buildings, bridges were getting built, nobody even discussed the situation of these people. With their city jobs and schemes like MNREGA, they just survived. It was the unprecedented pandemic that brought out the grim reality from the closed minds of national psyche!

Friends, Taapsee has clearly and forcefully written about the “migrants” in their own nation. The following line appropriately sums up the situation in India.

हम तो बस प्रवासी है।क्या इस देशके वासी है।

We are only the travellers but are we the citizens of this nation? Jaihind!